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Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Angels finally give up on Brandon Wood

By David Schoenfield

It's not like the Angels didn't give Brandon Wood a chance. Some might argue that 494 plate appearances of sporadic playing time isn't enough for somebody to prove their abilities as a major league hitter, but in the case of Brandon Wood, I think the answer is clear, as proven by a .168 career average and an abysmal 153/13 strikeout/walk ratio.

Brandon Wood
Angels third baseman Brandon Wood has a .168 career batting average.
There's no doubt Wood had talent; in 2006, after hitting 43 home runs in the minors in 2005, Baseball America rated Wood the No. 3 prospect in baseball, ahead of guys like Chad Billingsley, Justin Verlander, Matt Cain, Prince Fielder and Ryan Zimmerman. There were some red flags: His 43 home runs came with help from his Class A home park at Rancho Cucamonga, a notorious hitter's haven. He struck out 128 times and walked just 48 times, but he was only 20, so talent evaluators figured he was young enough to learn and improve.

He never did. He struck out 149 times the next season at Double-A. After that season, Baseball Prospectus, while still high on him, wrote, "The team's star of the future, Wood generates tremendous power with his bat, but it all comes out of his forearms and quick wrists; he's not a hulking slugger. Critics might note that he could stand to shorten his swing, but that's not his game." After struggling in his first exposure to big league pitching in 2008, the Angels gave him a chance to win the third-base job in 2010, but he hit .146 in 226 at-bats. "It was tough," manager Mike Scioscia said about the decision to designate Wood for assignment. "He's one of our guys. We just have no way out of this right now. There's no roster flexibility. Brandon needs to go and play and get an opportunity to establish his career. And we'll be proud of him when it happens."

I wrote a few weeks ago about top hitting prospects who didn't make it because they never learned to cut down on their minor league strikeout rates. The top prospect lists are littered with hitters who never made it because of strikeout issues (and sometimes corresponding low walk rates), from Melvin Nieves to Ruben Rivera to Joe Borchard to Dallas McPherson. And now to Wood.

Baseball is a hard sport. Talent doesn't always translate to production. Wood is only 26, and I’m sure another team will pick him up and add him to their 40-man roster, hoping he'll learn to hit those pitches that bend. I hope he does.

Follow David Schoenfield on Twitter at @dschoenfield. Follow the SweetSpot blog at @espn_sweet_spot.